Supportive administration

You need to be aware of what others are doing, applaud their efforts, acknowledge their successes, and encourage them in their pursuits. When we all help one another, everybody wins.

– Jim Stovall

Interested in how your school is doing with providing supportive administration for collective leadership? Use one of the self-assessments in the linked document below.

What do we mean by supportive administration?

What supportive administration looks like: Administrators support teachers by providing them with the encouragement, financial support, and exhortation they need to grow. Administrators see their job as highlighting and catalyzing the great work going on in and across classrooms.

Implementation and support for teacher leadership have grown in recent years. Yet the impact that individual teacher leaders have will always be limited unless their leadership is integrated and combined with the efforts taking place in the larger context of the school. Nearly all schools and school systems still have some level of a traditional organizational chart that guides management and decision-making processes. School or district staff working within these structures engage in particular kinds of work, meetings, or decision-making to the extent that their supervisors allow and encourage them to do so. As a result, administrators, and particularly principals when considering individual schools, are absolutely essential to making any collective leadership development efforts visible, formal, official, and sustainable. 

The collective leadership development model frequently begins with the principal’s development and support for teacher leadership, though it can be driven from beyond the school. Of course, all of this occurs within community, district, state, and national contexts that support or constrain the school’s efforts. This is why effective district office administrators are so important for bridging and buffering challenges that might impact the school. At the school level, an effective principal is essential to sustained leadership development because she needs to allow and accelerate leadership to grow from the classroom. Teaching and learning are at the core of every school; therefore, administrators have to support the instructional leaders who are doing the work of improving student outcomes.

Additionally, administrative support facilitates shared development experiences of administrators and teachers. By participating in shared learning experiences, administrators and teachers better understand different perspectives and are more likely to develop coherent improvement plans. In fact, one of the most important ways administrators can support teachers is through the shared development of school improvement plans, which should be an essential annual learning experience.

Why is supportive administration important?

When effectively implemented, supportive administration provides visible, formal support for collectively led efforts; a lack of administrative support is likely to result in inaction. This discussion guide is strategically structured to support your team’s efforts to establish visible, formal support for collective leadership and avoid inaction during implementation of collective leadership. (See Table below.)

Most schools across the United States have administrators (principals and assistant principals) situated as the formal leaders of the school. These administrators hold the positional authority and legal responsibility for running a school. Therefore, the success of any endeavor, especially those intended to disrupt the status quo, relies heavily on an administrator’s willingness to provide visible, formal support to those charged with leading change. Administrators are the gatekeepers to providing resources, creating work structures, and sharing decision making responsibilities — three of the seven conditions required to implement collective leadership. Without visible, formal support, the ability of educators to lead change is severely limited and will result in unscalable innovations at best and inaction at worst.


Is your team ready to dive into the work of strengthening administration support for collective leadership? Complete the form below to get access to all of the conditions strategy guides.


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